What is a Cyst?
A cyst is a sac-like pocket of membranous tissue that contains fluid, air, or other substances. Cysts can grow almost anywhere in your body or under your skin.
There are many different types of cysts. Most cysts are benign, or noncancerous.
Whether a cyst needs treatment depends on a number of factors, including:
- the type of cyst
- the location of the cyst
- if the cyst is causing pain or discomfort
- whether the cyst is infected
What causes cysts?
Cysts are common and can occur anywhere on the body. They are often a result of infection, clogged sebaceous glands, or piercings.
Some other common causes of cysts include:
- genetic conditions
- a fault in an organ of a developing embryo
- a defect in the cells
- chronic inflammatory conditions
- blockages of ducts in the body that cause fluids to build up
- a parasite
- an injury that breaks a vessel
In most cases, it is unusual for cysts to cause pain unless they rupture, become infected, or are inflamed.
Common types of cyst include:
Acne Cysts, or nodulocystic acne, is a severe type of acne in which the skin’s pores become blocked, leading to infection and inflammation.
2. Arachnoid cysts
Arachnoid cysts may affect newborn babies.
The arachnoid membrane covers the brain. During fetal development, it doubles up or splits to form an abnormal pocket of cerebrospinal fluid. In some cases, a doctor may need to drain the cyst.
3. Baker’s cysts
Baker’s cysts are also called popliteal cysts. A person with a Baker’s cyst often experiences a bulge and a feeling of tightness behind the knee. The pain may worsen when extending the knee or during physical activity.
Baker’s cysts usually develop due to a problem with the knee joint, such as arthritis or a cartilage tear.
4. Bartholin’s cysts
Bartholin’s cysts can occur if the ducts of the Bartholin gland, which are situated inside the vagina, become blocked.
A doctor may recommend surgery or prescription antibiotics as treatment.
5. Breast cysts
Breast cysts are common and may be painful, but they do not usually require any treatment.
In females, these cysts can develop or change in size throughout the menstrual cycle, and they often disappear on their own. However, a doctor can drain the fluid if they are causing discomfort.
Simple cysts do not increase the risk of breast cancer. There is a small chance that complex cysts might contain cancer or increase a person’s risk of cancer later on, depending on the results of a biopsy.
6. Chalazion cysts
Very small eyelid glands, called meibomian glands, make a lubricant that comes out of tiny openings in the edges of the eyelids. Cysts can form here if the ducts are blocked. These are known as chalazion cysts.
7. Colloid cysts
Colloid cysts develop in the brain and contain gelatinous material. Doctors often recommend surgical removal as treatment.
8. Dentigerous cysts
Dentigerous cysts surround the crown of an unerupted tooth.
9. Dermoid cysts
Dermoid cysts comprise mature skin, hair follicles, sweat glands, and clumps of long hair, as well as fat, bone, cartilage, and thyroid tissue.
10. Epididymal cysts
Epididymal cysts, or spermatoceles, form in the vessels attached to the testes. This type of cyst is common and does not typically impair fertility or require treatment. If it causes discomfort, however, a doctor may suggest surgery.
11. Ganglion cysts
Ganglion cysts are small, harmless cysts that form on or near a joint or covering of a tendon. They usually develop on the wrist but can also appear on the hand, foot, ankle, or knee.
12. Hydatid cysts
Hydatid cysts develop due to a relatively small tapeworm. These cysts form in the lungs or liver. Treatment options include surgery and medication.
13. Kidney cysts
There are several types of kidney cyst or renal cyst. Solitary cysts contain fluids, sometimes including blood. Some are present at birth, while tubular blockages cause others.
People with renal vascular diseases may have cysts that formed due to the dilatation of the blood vessels.
14. Ovarian cysts
Ovarian cysts are common in females who have regular periods. They form during ovulation.
The majority of ovarian cysts are benign and cause no symptoms. However, some can become so large that the abdomen protrudes.
Polycystic ovary syndrome refers to when the ovaries develop many small cysts.
15. Pancreatic cysts
Most health professionals do not consider pancreatic cysts as true cysts. Instead, they refer to them as “pseudocysts,” as they do not contain the types of cells present in true cysts.
They can include cells normally present in other organs, such as the stomach or intestines.
16. Periapical cysts
Periapical cysts, also known as radicular cysts, are the most common type of odontogenic cyst, which are those related to the formation and development of teeth. These cysts usually develop due to inflammation of the pulp, pulp death, or tooth decay.
17. Pilar cysts
Pilar cysts are also known as trichilemmal cysts. They are fluid-filled cysts that form from a hair follicle, and they usually develop in the scalp.
18. Pilonidal cysts
Pilonidal cysts form in the skin near the tailbone or lower back, and they sometimes contain ingrown hair.
These cysts can grow in clusters, which sometimes creates a hole or cavity in the skin.
19. Pineal gland cysts
These are benign cysts that form in the pineal gland in the brain. According to a study from 2007, pineal gland cysts are fairly common.
20. Sebaceous cysts
People use the term “sebaceous cyst” to describe a type of cyst that occurs on the skin of the face, back, scalp, or scrotum.
Cysts that occur in these locations may be epidermoid or pilar cysts, though health professionals can only tell the difference after removing and analyzing the cyst.
21. Tarlov cysts
Tarlov cysts — also known as perineural, perineurial, or sacral nerve root cysts — are located at the base of the spine and are filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
22. Vocal fold cysts
There are two types of vocal fold cyst: mucus retention cysts and epidermoid cysts.
Vocal fold cysts can interfere with the quality of a person’s speech, sometimes causing their vocal cords to produce:
- multiple tones simultaneously, called diplophonia
- breathy speech, or dysphonia
Treatments for cysts
The treatment options for a cyst will depend on a range of factors, including the type of cyst, where it is, its size, and the degree of discomfort it is causing.
For very large cysts that are causing symptoms, a doctor may recommend surgical removal.